Monthly Archives: May 2009

Fractals: From Pollock to Broccoflower

In my last blog titled “Geek Fashion”, I told the story of my inner struggles as a self-described fashionista [slash] computer nerd. I am extremely lucky to have found a geek’s sanctuary working for Jhane, as she has taken the dialogue between art and math and synthesized it with men’s fashions.

When I am designing with Jhane, I am inspired by so many things. My painting background influences me to think about pattern, color, texture, brush strokes, light, space (not “outer space” LOL) and transitions. The analytical part of my brain leads me to think about algorithms, iterations, mathematics and fractals. When these things work in conjunction, it’s magic.

Working for Jhane, everything always goes back to fractals, somehow.

At the end of “Geek Fashion”, I mention how some art critics and mathematicians believe that the action paintings of Jackson Pollock are based on fractals. I was so excited by this tidbit of information that one night, after several pints of Guinness, I told my painter friend about this. He wasn’t as excited as I was… He said he had heard that one before and didn’t really put a lot of stock in that theory. (Since this conversation did take place at the local pub, you can imagine that this is the family-friendly abbreviated version…) Still excited about my new information, I protested, “No, but you don’t understand! I spend hours a day everyday at work thinking about painting and art and fractals and algorithms!” (To read more about Jackson Pollock and fractals, Jennifer Ouellette wrote a definitive article for Discover Magazine: Pollock’s Fractals.)

Ok, so I admit, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration to exclaim that I spend hours a day thinking about fractals, but it does seem that somehow everything goes back to fractals. To me, the fact that so many experts could find iterations and patterns in the seemingly random paintings of Jackson Pollock…this validated my whole existence…well, at least for that brief moment….

Fractal Broccoli, also known as Romanesco Broccoli

Fractal broccoflower, also known as Romanesco Broccoli

And sometimes I’m not even thinking about work or art or fashion and fractals pop up….Here’s another example:

Jhane and her team are always looking to try new healthy foods. A recent obsession for me was broccoflower from Trader Joe’s produce section. Broccoflower looks like a broccoli-cauliflower hybrid. It tastes sort of like cauliflower, but slightly different. I admit, it’s mostly the novelty of a new vegetable that thrills me so much! Thinking about the cloned meat controversy, I wanted to know more about how this unusual vegetable came to be.

I did a little research and found out that what I was buying at TJ’s is literally green cauliflower. And that there is a second type of broccolflower, which is the result of broccoli and cauliflower cross-pollinating (which can happen by natural means). This is also known as Romanesco Broccoli, and has beautiful spirals which follow Fibannaci’s sequence. Each big spiral is made up of lots of little spirals, similar to sea shells. To read more about broccoflower, John Walker wrote a great article called “Fractal Food“.

Besides being mathematical equations, fractals also occur quite frequently in nature. If you would like to know more about this, you can check out an episode of Nova, which Jhane participated in (Chapter 3), which is all about fractals.

-Heidi Bender, Assistant Designer at Jhane Barnes Menswear